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  • Writer's pictureLeanne Goff

Imposter Syndrome

Recently I was introduced to the term; Imposter Syndrome. For years now, I have witnessed and observed people feeling inadequate and not good enough and at times I too have experienced this myself but I never really understood what that meant or where it came from. Following further research, it all makes a lot more sense and for this month’s blog I would like to share with you what I have discovered in the hope that if anyone reading this feels that they are experiencing imposter syndrome, because studies show that 70% of people experience impostor syndrome at some point in their career, then steps can be taken towards addressing it.

What is Imposter Syndrome? I would like to begin by explaining what is meant by imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual has doubts about their accomplishments or talents and despite external evidence of their competence, has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a "fraud". Regardless of competence and success they remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved and they incorrectly attribute their success to luck, not qualifications or talents, or interpret it as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent than they perceive themselves to be. Imposter syndrome has been recognized to affect both men and women equally. There is no single explanation why imposter syndrome occurs, some believe it is to do with personality traits i.e. anxiety or neuroticism while others attribute it to family or behavioural reasons.

Put simply: Imposter syndrome is the idea of not being good enough and constantly waiting to be found out. It is the self-belief that people like me don’t have success. For example, a child looking up to an adult, thinking they have it all figured out or even now as an adult looking at your friends and thinking they have it all figured out and I am the dumbass that doesn’t.

Symptoms: Imposter experience may be accompanied by anxiety, stress, rumination, or depression.

Measuring Imposter Syndrome: In her 1985 paper, Clance identified six dimensions of impostor syndrome:

1. The impostor cycle

2. The need to be special or the best

3. Characteristics of superman/superwoman

4. Fear of failure

5. Denial of ability and discounting praise

6. Feeling fear and guilt about success

Clance believed for an individual to experience impostor syndrome, at least two of these aspects have to be present.

Five Types: Valerie Young investigated the fraudulent feelings among high achievers. From her book; “The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer From the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It, she was able to identify five subgroups this syndrome often falls into;

1. The perfectionist: set extremely high expectations for themselves, and even if they meet 99% of their goals, they’re going to feel like failures. Any small mistake will make them question their own competence.

2. The superwoman/man: push themselves to work harder than those around them to prove that they’re not impostors. They feel the need to succeed in all aspects of life—at work, as parents, as partners—and may feel stressed when they are not accomplishing something.

3. The natural genius: has to struggle or work hard to accomplish something, he or she thinks this means they aren’t good enough. They are used to skills coming easily, and when they have to put in effort, their brain tells them that’s proof they’re an imposter.

4. The soloist: feel they have to accomplish tasks on their own, and if they need to ask for help, they think that means they are a failure or a fraud.

5. The expert: feel the need to know every piece of information before they start a project and constantly look for new certifications or trainings to improve their skills. They won’t apply for a job if they don’t meet all the criteria in the posting, and they might be hesitant to ask a question in class or speak up in a meeting at work because they’re afraid of looking stupid if they don’t already know the answer.

How to deal with imposter syndrome:

· Acknowledge the imposter thoughts & put them into perspective

· Reframe your thoughts where & when it is possible to do so (replace the negative thought with a more positive thought) e.g. value the importance of constructive criticism

· Share your thoughts or feelings with family or friends

· Seek professional help if you want to delve deeper into the feelings

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